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Umphrey's McGee


Claiming the 'American Midwest' as their home, Chicago-based Umphrey's McGee works the jamband circuit for all it's worth, purveying 6-piece rock that tends toward the Zappa side of the improv/jam scale (vs flying the Dead/Allman Bros. flag like many of their peers).From the band: Every day more and more people are tuning in and turning on to Umphrey's McGee. And for good reason. Like true sons of the American Midwest, Umphrey's McGee has risen to the upper echelons of the improvisational-rock scene through their seamless compositing of diverse musical influences, from progressive-rock to metal to funk to folk to jazz-fusion to classic song-based rock-and roll, all woven together with infectious melodies, thought-provoking lyrics, pristine harmonies, blistering musicianship, and rollicking grooves that keep dem bones a-shaking throughout the course of their patented sonic sagas. Their latest studio release Anchor Drops demonstrates with undeniable conviction the band's fluency in drawing from a wide variety of styles in the American popular music lexicon.The band has solidified its reputation through a prolific national touring schedule and gripping performances at such high-profile gatherings as the Bonnaroo Music Festival, High Sierra Music Festival, and South By Southwest among others. True to their love of improvisation, Umphrey's McGee provides a unique experience with each performance. Everywhere they play, heads turn and ears prick up at the virtuoso playing, the acrobatic tempo changes and rhythmic shifts, as well as the captivating songs themselves. It's like a carnival of sound. "No one," extols Village Voice critic Richard Gehr, "is doing anything else as ambitiously musical as Umphrey's McGee." The attention they command has also prompted Michael Deeds of the Washington Post to call Umphrey's McGee "rock's undisputed lord of sonic shape-shifting."This growing critical and popular esteem has led to the development of a fiercely loyal following. A burgeoning legion of fans, known alternately as "Umphreaks" and "McGeeks," is distinguished by its rabid burning and trading of live shows via the internet and at various clubs and concert venues, where committed street teams get the word out about the band and keep on spreading the music. The result has been numerous occasions when Umphrey's plays to sold-out houses in towns they've never visited before. The love of Umphrey's McGee music has spawned a volunteer grassroots publicity campaign as successful as that of any national band out there touring.Devotees of "all cool music," the band identifies The Beatles and Led Zeppelin as primary influences with a reverence the members describe as "biblical." They also share a love for the music of Yes, Gabriel-era Genesis, King Crimson, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Miles Davis, and Jaco Pastorius. Their own playing and writing reflects these influences, yet maintains its own contemporary originality through a diligent avoidance of cliches (both musical and lyrical) and a willing patience to wait for the freshest expression of an idea to emerge. Sometimes song ideas sit dormant for years before finding a place in the band's vast repertoire. Using 8-bar segments and progressions (building blocks they have dubbed "legos"), primary songwriters Jake Cinninger and Brendan Bayliss construct their songs piecemeal and with the active participation of their bandmates. All arrangements are collaborative. Lyrics, too, are collected over time and groomed to be thought-provoking and open to interpretation. This is a band that likes its audience to think while they're dancing. Solid songcraft is the first crucial step in that process.It was during December 1997, in South Bend, Indiana that a merger between two local bands gave birth to the group we now call Umphrey's McGee. The original line-up was Joel Cummins (keyboards, vocals), Brendan Bayliss (guitar, vocals) and Ryan Stasik (bass), and Mike Mirro (drums, vocals). After their first studio release, Greatest Hits Volume III (1998), they invited percussionist Andy Farag to join. In 1998 the band completed and released their second CD, Songs For Older Women, with Andy on board. The next evolution in their sound came in September of 2000, when primo guitarist Jake Cinninger became available and began contributing his guitar chops and ace songwriting to the mix. With the addition of Cinninger's vision, Umphrey's McGee focused exclusively on national recognition for their singular style. Their third recorded outing came in 2000. One Fat Suckacullslive performances from the band's Fall 2000 tour to showcase their skill and originality on stage. In 2002, the group's fourth release, the critically lauded Local Band Does OK, spread the Umphrey's name beyond the insulated confines of the jam scene and into a broader consciousness. Music that "fuses fusion, funk, and pop into a steamy psychedelic swirl," music that is called "cerebral" and "mathematical," yet "danceable and infectious" at the same time, music that "prog-rock nerds delight in discovering," music that "threatens to blow speakers-and a few minds-,"music for the parched heads out there begging for some depth and complexity, this is the startling music Umphrey's McGee delivered on LBDOK.The year 2003 marked the departure of original drummer Mike Mirro, who headed off to medical school, and the addition of Chicago-area drummer Kris Myers, as well as the release of the first-ever Umphrey's McGee video Live From The Lake Coast, enabling fans to experience the full-on Umphrey's live presentation, light show and all.And now, in 2004, the band has made good on its decision to record another great studio album. The effort is a conscious attempt to use the full capacity of the studio to function as an instrument itself. In doing so, Umphrey's McGee has whelped a masterpiece destined for broad appeal.On their new record Anchor Drops, the band realizes its full potential for wide acceptance by listeners well beyond the jam world. In no way a recreation of the Umphrey's live presentation, Anchor Drops is highlighted by dazzling songcraft, memorable hooks, philosophical lyrics that manage to be poetic yet earthy and accessible, anthemic guitar lines, rock-solid rhythms, ecstatic climaxes, haunting acoustic interludes, dramatic sound effects, and a thematic coherence that enables each song to function as part of an epic interconnected whole.With Anchor Drops, Umphrey's McGee has unleashed a virtual joyride for the heart, body, mind, and soul.Umphrey's McGee is Joel Cummins (keyboards, vocals), Brendan Bayliss (guitar, vocals), Ryan Stasik (bass), Andy Farag (percussion), Jake Cinninger (guitar, Moog, synthesizers, vocals) and Kris Myers (drums, vocals). Also with the band are sound man Kevin Browning, monitor engineer Bob Ston, lighting designer Adam Budney, road manager Don Richards, and manager Vince Iwinski.


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